Verge Science is here to bring you the most up-to-date space news and analysis, whether it’s about the latest findings from NASA or comprehensive coverage of the next SpaceX rocket launch to the International Space Station. We’ll take you inside the discoveries of new exoplanets, space weather, space policy, and the booming commercial space industry.
The European Space Agency’s test-fire of Ariane 6’s Vulcain 2.1 engine will start at 3:30PM ET, and will run for the full 470 seconds of the first stage of a real launch.
As Space notes, the Ariane 6 replaces the Ariane 5, which had a 27-year stint before going to pasture. Its first launch is planned for 2024 following years of delays.
The ESA livestream starts at 3PM ET.
The Psyche spacecraft that’s heading to study a metal asteroid has successfully test-fired a communications laser back at the Earth from nearly 10 million miles away — a first for NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) system.
NASA said in its announcement that the DSOC test is “one of many critical DSOC milestones” that will make higher throughput communication possible ahead of an eventual manned Mars mission.
From the SpaceX livestream, the team there said about 15 minutes into the 8AM ET launch that Starship’s signal had disappeared, and it appears the craft’s flight termination system ended its journey soon after the planned engine shutdown.
The ship made it much farther along than the previous attempt earlier this year.
SpaceX’s rocket launched just after 8AM CT. The rocket is currently heading towards space. The booster exploded seconds after the stage separation, but Starship itself continued.
After sending its Project Kuiper test satellites into space last month, Amazon confirmed its systems achieved “nominal or better performance.” It even successfully connected to the internet through the satellite and conducted a two-way video call.
NASA says coronal gasses can corrupt signals NASA sends to its automated explorers, so the agency is playing it safe. In the meantime, the two rovers and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will continue collecting data while parked on the surface.
The FAA still hasn’t cleared SpaceX to attempt another Starship orbital launch from its Boca Chica, TX, site after the first one caused significant damage to the pad and surrounding environment. SpaceX’s website and this teaser trailer indicate it’s ready to try again as soon as November 17th.
Those are also popping up on the same day as a report from Reuters documenting 600 injuries to SpaceX workers since 2014.
The records included reports of more than 100 workers suffering cuts or lacerations, 29 with broken bones or dislocations, 17 whose hands or fingers were “crushed,” and nine with head injuries, including one skull fracture, four concussions and one traumatic brain injury.
Musk himself at times appeared cavalier about safety on visits to SpaceX sites: Four employees said he sometimes played with a novelty flamethrower and discouraged workers from wearing safety yellow because he dislikes bright colors.
NASA’s free, ad-free, and subscription-free streaming service has officially launched. I’m personally a fan of the “Space Out” series tagged under “NASA & Chill,” which are 30-minute shows featuring incredible shots of planets and space stuff all backed by chill music.
Unlike NASA’s James Webb telescope, which produces high-resolution images by focusing on smaller areas, Euclid can observe large sections of the sky much faster, and in higher resolution than previous survey missions. “We have never seen astronomical images like this before, containing so much detail,” said the ESA’s René Laureijs.
If you’re eager for NASA-produced documentaries and original series or even some good old-fashioned live launch coverage, NASA Plus, which was announced in July, goes live tomorrow, as Space reminds us.
Since it’s NASA, it’s like free ad-supported TV, aka FAST TV, but instead of ads, it’s paid for by your taxes.
...FTST TV? Anyway, here’s a trailer.
This time last year Musk said that Starlink was losing about $20 million a month. Now he says it’s breakeven, which is good news for a service that keeps people connected in remote locations, in times of disaster and war, or while tooling around in a van or boat. Unimpeded growth could be bad for astronomers trying to see past those roughly 5,000 satellites currently operating in low-Earth orbit, with plans for up to 37,000 more.
This spacewalk is a first for Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, who are removing a box from a communications antenna and repairing one of the solar arrays.
The Elon Musk-owned company could launch up to four of the ESA’s Galileo navigation satellites into space next year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The deal reportedly involves two US-based launches, each with two Galileo satellites aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
This comes as Europe’s Ariane rocket program faces its own setbacks. The European Commission and EU member states will still need to approve the deal with SpaceX, the WSJ notes, which could happen by the end of this year.
The company reportedly told ArsTechnica it’s shooting for 144 launches next year. That’s 12 launches a month, or about every two-and-a-half days.
The goal, writes Ars, is to put many more Starlink satellites aloft to support its satellite-based cell phone service, which is due to launch next year as a texting-only service, with voice and data coming later. That’s not necessarily great news to everyone.
I kid, I kid: it’s the Apollo 16 lunar soil scoop, an awesome vari-angle shovel with spring-loaded buttons, which just sold at auction for $874,998. One of those buttons attached it to an extension pole that’s reportedly still sitting on the Moon.
The Smithsonian has one like this too, though it’s apparently not on display.
Amazon streamlined logistics for moving goods, and Amazon Web Services does the same for many operations on the internet. Now, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has announced (in a brief post not much longer than this one) a familiar approach for its Blue Ring spacecraft platform and In-Space Systems business unit, built to support missions “in medium Earth orbit out to the cislunar region and beyond.”
The platform provides end-to-end services that span hosting, transportation, refueling, data relay, and logistics, including an “in-space” cloud computing capability. Blue Ring can host payloads of more than 3,000 kg and provides unprecedented delta-V capabilities and mission flexibility.
If you’re lucky enough to have clear skies in parts of the American Southwest or Pacific Northwest, you get a total eclipse at about 12:18PM ET today. Otherwise, check NASA’s interactive map to see how much eclipse you’re getting where you live. The US space agency is also streaming the eclipse live today.
And don’t look right at the eclipse! Check out our handy guide for getting the most out of the spectacle without wrecking your retinas.
Yes, NASA just revealed preliminary results from the OSIRIS-REx mission that snagged material from the asteroid Bennu, but this morning, it successfully launched Psyche, an orbiter that will attempt to visit an asteroid of that name, which was the 16th one discovered, on March 17th, 1852.
During a press conference on October 11th, NASA administrators and scientists showed off the initial results from their analysis of the sample capsule returned from the OSIRIS-REx mission that grabbed bits of the asteroid Bennu and brought them back to Earth last month.
While the larger rocks in the craft’s Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) have yet to be evaluated, here are a few images from the livestream showing what they’ve found in the canister lid and base around the TAGSAM.
According to Amazon:
We hit our first major mission milestone at 2:53 p.m. EDT when our mission operations center in Redmond, Washington, confirmed first contact with KuiperSat-2. This is when the satellite and one of our telemetry, tracking, and control (TT&C) antennas established a telemetry link for the first time. We made first contact with KuiperSat-1 at 2:54 p.m. EDT.
[US About Amazon]
After a period of beta testing, NASA rolled out an updated eighth revision of its website last week. The modernized image layouts and text look fine, even if I’m a little nostalgic for the seemingly-ancient previous version that was last updated in the mid 2010s. (The Internet Archive shows even earlier revisions, like 2007’s v5.0 update.)
This new version of NASA.gov is also launching ahead of a full NASA App revamp and NASA Plus video on-demand streaming launch later this year, promising an “ad-free, no cost, and family-friendly streaming service,” with live coverage plus collections of original video series and a few new series.
What was originally meant to be a six-month visit aboard the International Space Station turned into a record breaking extended stay for NASA’s Frank Rubio.
After 371 days, he has now safely returned to Earth, setting a new record for the longest amount of time spent in space by a US astronaut. Russia’s Valeri Polyakov holds the all-time record at 437 continuous days.
Rubio recently told CNN that if he knew his time in microgravity would be twice as long as initially expected, it’s possible he would’ve declined the mission.